From ROSPHOTO collection
The return of a large collection of “Soviet photography” to Russia's state museum holdings has a great meaning to the Russian culture. The exhibition Soviet Photography comprises works by the classics of Soviet photography. The acquisition of these works to the collection of State Museum and Exhibition Centre ROSPHOTO from a private US archive has been made possible with the support of the Ministry of Culture of the Russian Federation.
The content of the exhibition largely repeats illustrative material of the first volume of well-known edition, Anthology of Soviet Photography (by L. I. Oukhtomskaya and A. F. Fomin), printed in 1986 in Moscow by Planet editorial house. The Anthology was defined by its authors as “short history of development of art photography in the context of the building of Socialism”. This definition is also applicable to the exhibition.
The selection of photographs is, on the one hand, a sequence of well known official photographic works traditionally associated with the notion of “Soviet photography”, while, on the other hand, representing a number of outstanding artworks of the time made by talented artists. This ambiguity is characteristic to art of the Soviet period when dividing between “official” and “underground” was fundamental to comprehension of an artwork by its contemporaries. However, as “killing irony” of Andrey Platonov's descriptions of “Socialist life” was immediately understandable for most Soviet readers, many outstanding works of art encased into forms prescribed by censorship, and primarily Soviet photography, the “powerful weapon of propaganda”, have only in the last decade become subject of adequate, multidimensional rendition. One has to give credit to the authors of the Anthology, competent specialists with a fine artistic taste: having started their volume with a traditional Soviet “Leniniana” they managed to further build a unique and rich collection comprising works of highest artistic quality.
Looking at such images nowadays we perceive them from an “inverted historical perspective”. To us, they are filled with “parental memory”, with a different and much deeper contextual content, documentary accuracy, and tragedy. Soviet visual journalism that was intended to serve the Socialist Realism by providing a “true depiction of life in its historical development” has now become to us a true-to-life and dramatic witness of the time gone. The professionals that “devoted” themselves to serving the propaganda, unrivaled masters that happened to use the “new” visual language, rendered deep and true artistic meaning to documentary and reportage photography of the time.
Lilya Isaakovna Oukhtomskaya (1924–1997), one of the Anthology's authors, at various times head of photography service at All-Soviet Exhibition of Achievements of National Economy (VDHKh) and employee of several largest Soviet magazines including Ogonyok and Sovetsky Ekran, was referred to by her biographers as “guardian angel” of Sovetskoye Foto (“Soviet Photography”) magazine. Several works included in the exhibition were once part of her own collection.
The exhibition is comprised mainly of authorial prints by famous Soviet photographers: Georgy Zelma's images from Birth of Iskra and Village Komsomol Women series, Arkady Shaykhet's Sports Parade, Boris Ignatovich's Dinamo and First Tractor, Immanuel Yevzerikhin's Mausoleum in Winter, Olga Lander's Electrification of Rostov-Ilovayskaya Road, Max Alpert's Construction of Bratsk Hydroelectric Power Station, Semyon Friedland's Construction Men, Alexander Rodchenko's Izvestiya, Moisey Nappelbaum's portraits, Dmitry Baltermants's photographs of Stalin Motorcar Plant production and many others. Among rare, non-circulated works are several unique large format photographs including Portrait of Stalin by Max Alpert and Valentina Kulagina's 1,5-meter collage created for the Siberian Pavillion at VDNKh.
Most artworks on display are well-known masterpieces often seen at exhibitions and in publications on Soviet photography.
A series of exhibitions dedicated to its 10 year anniversary